More Picture Book Pleasures —
Lions and Sheep and Rabbits. Oh my!

h1 November 4th, 2006 by jules

This is supposed to be a Part Two of sorts to my most recent picture book post, but let’s just drop that whole parts-of-a-whole concept. I’ve got a huge stack of picture books to read — which makes me happier than the pre-born-again Eddy Tulane in front of a mirror. Some have been nominated for the Cybil Awards, and some have not. Let’s just get right to it, and if you enjoy picture book posts, then you’re in luck, ’cause I’ve got a lot more to talk about in the near future.

librarylion.gifLibrary Lion by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes — If, by chance, you have been reading some particularly uninspired books lately, well then here’s a sight for sore eyes. This book is just gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. And if you’re a library-lover, then be prepared to swoon. And when it comes to those books with memorable first lines, add this one to the list: “One day, a lion came to the library.” Yes, he just walks right in and proceeds to the stacks. The well-meaning but stodgy librarian, Mr. McBee, immediately runs to tattle to the head librarian, Miss Merriweather (who is all bunned up and the stereotype of a female librarian that gets some librarians moaning and groaning; but, hey, at least she’s not wearing a cardigan). Fortunately for this puss, Miss Merriweather allows him to stay as long as he’s not breaking any rules. Turns out that this lion is lovable and can dust the encyclopedias with his tail. After one unruly “roar” (he’s just upset that story time has ended; can you blame him?), for which he is reprimanded, he returns daily to the great excitement of the library patrons and staff, who come to love him — except for our sour librarian, Mr. McBee, who is just a tad bit rainy-face jealous, it seems. And I won’t give away the ending, except to say that it’s okay sometimes to break the rules, or so Knudsen is telling us. Hawkes’ acrylic and pencil illustrations mix the past and the present with the inclusion of card catalogs and computers. And the book has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel with his soft pastel color choices and text borders on many of the book’s pages. There is much expression and detail and personality in these characters, especially in our fetching library feline. And you reeeeeally need to see the dynamic and hysterical double page spread, the book’s climax, in which the lion breaks the precious library rules and roars — for one very important reason — in Mr. McBee’s bumbling face (and not to worry; Mr. McBee’s not quite the schmuck he sets out to be). A delightful read and nice tribute to the library lions of the New York Public Library (which I just read were carved using Tennessee Pink marble — woo hoo!). Don’t miss this one.

booandbaa.gifBoo and Baa Have Company by Lena and Olof Landstrom and translated by Joan Sandin — How would we get by without Boo and Baa? Here they are again in a title published in September of this year. It’s a beautiful Fall day, and Boo and Baa are busy in the yard when they hear a “meow” in the tree above them. Of course, it takes them a while to decipher the source of the noise (Boo thinks the wheelbarrow is meowing; the Landstroms shine again with their usual droll wit). In an attempt to help the cat out of the tree, Boo gets stuck up there — and while hungry, nonetheless. But fear not; Baa kindly makes him four different sandwiches to chow down on while devising a way to get him down from the tree. Will Boo come down? Will they ever get their hands on the aloof yet adorable cat? If you have pre-schoolers or read books to them at story times, you already know the Boo and Baa books are perfect fare for this age. There’s always a slapstick, pratfall adventure involved, sly humor, and — in this one — they’ll have great fun spying the cat peeking down from the tree before Boo and Baa ever spot it. Boo and Baa titles always succeed with the “again! again!” seals of approval with pre-schoolers, and it helps that they’re amusing for the adults, too. According to Kirkus Reviews, Boo and Baa are returning to the States after a six-year absence with this new title. Let’s hope they don’t stay away as long when it comes to the next Boo and Baa adventure.

carrotsoup.gifCarrot Soup by John Segal — It’s Spring, Rabbit’s favorite time of year, in which he plans his garden, plows, plants, waters, weeds, waits, harvests, and then enjoys some sweet carrot soup. However, though he goes to great effort this year to plant a wide variety of carrots (ever heard of sugarsnax carrots? Paris Market? Thumbelinas? Lunar Whites? Who knew? Not I. There are white carrots?), when he eagerly goes to pluck his savory veggies from the ground, they’re gone. Off he goes to interrogate his friends — Mole, Dog, Cat, etc. — and I won’t reveal the felicitous ending so as to not ruin your fun. Segal scores with text constructed with a rhythmic, repetitive structure (Rabbit asking each animal, “have you seen them?” and the animal responding with a clear no and encouraging poor Rabbit to ask the next animal) — oh, and a carrot recipe to boot in the back. Score again (but hold the celery please)! And he also scores with his jaunty, rather angular illustrations (but with just enough of a soft edge) and his animal characters with the pin-point eyes that still manage to exude personality. Pre-schoolers will have a blast spotting the busy animal activity in the background to which Rabbit is oblivious; Rabbit’s in for one thoughtful surprise, though. For another thumbs-up on this title from someone-in-the-know, check out Big A little a’s thoughts on the matter.

potato.gifOne Potato, Two Potato by Cynthia DeFelice and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren — I really like this book, I haven’t experienced U’Ren ’til now, and let’s just say that I quickly got online to my local library to request copies of everything she’s illustrated before. But, at the book’s closing, oh how I longed for an author’s note of some sort that gave us a bit of background on the “old folktale” upon which the story is based. We read on the book’s side-flap summary (how’s that for an exact book term?) that it’s an old folktale, but from where? Get online and read the publisher’s comments, and you’ll learn that it’s a retelling of a Chinese folktale. I’m a stickler for those folktale acknowledgements and explanations in the front or back of a book, and that would have made this endearing book even more laudable. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely book that pays tribute to the author’s Irish heritage (which I also know from the publisher’s comments). Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady are so pathetically poor that they only have — and share — one of each thing. They share a chair, they share a potato-a-day, they share one worn-out blanket . . . you get the idea. U’Ren’s beautiful, expressive artwork brings us two very meek, shrinking O’Gradys who force you to linger on each page, taking in the potent atmosphere and mood, U’Ren’s great strength here. The O’Grady’s are happy with one another but long for friends. As for Mrs. O’Grady, “it was the wish of her heart to have a friend, someone with whom she could share recipes for boiled potatoes and sweet memories of how it felt to touch her newborn babies’ downy heads.” Aw, DeFelice, call me old-fashioned, but that’s the best picture book line of the year! So, what happens when Mr. O’Grady stumbles upon a magic pot that can duplicate whatever is put inside it? Shhh, I won’t tell. Read this yourself, my friend. There’s humor, there’s poignancy (that manages not to be overbearing), and U’Ren captivates with her rich colors and angles and lines and ability to breathe life into the O’Gradys. The always-informative-and-amusing Brookeshelf gave it an affirmative as well; read here, if interested. As she put it so well, this is “a perfect story for children living in an increasingly materialistic age.”

mias-story.gifMia’s Story: A Sketchbook of Hopes and Dreams by Michael Foreman (My God, click on that link and just see this man’s bibliography! I mean, I’ve seen some of his work before, but . . . jump back, the man’s prolific) — Lucky for us, Foreman’s bus broke down one day while travelling in Chile, and he met Mia and decided to tell us her story, an intriguing glimpse at the life of a child in contemporary Chile, living “somewhere between the big city and the snowy mountains.” Illustrated and narrated in the form of a sketchbook, as the sub-title indicates, we see that Mia and her family live in a city that used to be farmland but that now can “only harvest what the city throws away”; essentially, they live in a garbage dump. And, though they make the most of it, Mia’s father dreams of building a house of bricks one day. Foreman takes us on a journey with Mia, involving the search for Poco, her lost puppy, in which she brings back some flowering plants that bring great hope to a city steeped in pollution and bleakness. Illustrated in both pencil and Foreman’s sparkling watercolors, this story works on so many levels for children — from an environmental perspective to a human nature one, in which we are given a portrait of a girl who embodies strength of spirit and an ever-hopeful desire to make her world a better place through a seemingly insignificant but wide-reaching effort in her own community. A powerful, affirming tale of the resiliency of children.

Signing off for now. I have more picture books to read — oh, twist twist my arm. What an onerous task {insert biting sarcasm here}. Here’s to all the 2006 picture book delights . . .

10 comments to “More Picture Book Pleasures —
Lions and Sheep and Rabbits. Oh my!”

  1. woo-hoo! welcome back, Boo & Baa. they are excellent preschool storytime material, always.

    and i love Library Lion. i mean, what librarian wouldn’t? and kevin hawkes always makes me happy.

  2. word to the hawkes comment. and his web site is fun and purdy, too.

  3. Kevin Hawkes was one the the five wonderful speakers at the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival held in New Hampshire last weekend. Hawkes spent quite a bit of time reading excerpts from LIBRARY LION as he showed us the process he used in making the delightful illustrations for the book. Sure glad I got myself a signed copy.

  4. ooh, elaine, i am JEALOUS. that sounds like it would have been awesome.

  5. Eisha,

    I included a link to your review of LIBRARY LION on my Sunday post at Blue Rose Girls.

  6. Aw, thanks, Elaine! Everyone go check out her write-up of the Keene Festival on Blue Rose Girls! It sounds like a blast.

  7. Julie,

    Thank you so much for adding Just One More Book!! Podcast to your Book site listing.

    I’m adding You to our Thanks! page, of course.

    BTW, as part of our Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day series, our show today features a Kevin Hawkes book too: And To Think That We Thought That We’d Never Be Friends!

    Talk soon,
    A Podcast about the children’s books we love and why we love them — recorded in our favourite coffee shop

  8. Julie

    Many thanks for the kind words about Carrot Soup.
    Yes, there are white carrots. And purple and yellow carrots, too.

    Wonderful site. I will add you review to my site. Could you please add me to yours?


  9. You’re added, John. Congrats on your Society of Illustrators award! (Eisha, go here to see the poster your boyfriend, Kadir, illustrated for them).

  10. […] Well, I do. I see that in the old days of 7-Imp, back when images were tragically small, I once posted about Boo and Baa. (And, oh! The Benny books by Barbro Lindgren and illustrated by Olof! Oh, how I love those books, […]

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